Study Guide

The Jungle Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

  • Jokubas Szedvilas has a friend, a policeman who also works as a kind of talent scout for Durham's meatpacking plant. He thinks that he can convince this friend to get Jonas and Antanas a job.
  • Jurgis is so confident that he tells Jokubas he doesn't need help to find employment.
  • He goes to Brown's meatpacking plant and stands there for half an hour before a boss notices his size and strength.
  • After a brief dialogue (which is difficult because Jurgis speaks pretty much no English and the boss speaks little Lithuanian), Jurgis realizes he has a job. He's supposed to report the next morning at 7:00 AM.
  • Jurgis runs home, absolutely thrilled, to report that he has found a job.
  • What is more, Jokubas thinks he's gotten employment for Antanas and Jonas.
  • So the whole group of men is delighted.
  • Jokubas leaves his deli in the care of his wife, Lucija, so that he can show the new immigrants the sights of Packingtown (the district where all the people who work in the meatpacking plants live).
  • Jokubas leads them across the railroad tracks to a raised platform where they can look down at the cattle pens.
  • These pens cover a square mile of space; they are filled with more cattle than the eye can see.
  • Jurgis feels a sense of pride that he now has a job and is a part of this marvelous machine that is the slaughterhouse.
  • They observe men on horseback with herds of cattle agreeing on prices for their steers. These cows are then weighed and ushered into their holding pens. This bargaining goes on all night, so that, by morning, the pens are full. By evening, the pens are empty.
  • Teta Elzbieta asks what will happen to these animals.
  • Jokubas answers that they will all be killed and cut up. The stockyards are right next to the railroad tracks for a reason: all of this beef is immediately placed into railroad cars and shipped elsewhere.
  • And it's not just beef: an equal number of pigs and half the number of sheep arrive at these stockyards everyday, to be turned into ham, pork, mutton, and lamb.
  • These animals are completely unaware of what is going to happen to them. They march into the chutes that will lead them to the slaughterhouse without any signs of fear.
  • Jokubas reports proudly that there is no waste at these stockyards: "They use everything about the hog except the squeal" (3.25).
  • The group goes on to the brick buildings that actually process all of this meat for the Durham company.
  • (We're just going to step in here to say: this book is meant to draw your attention to things many of us don't like to think about. So the descriptions of what happens inside a slaughterhouse are really, really frank and detailed. Do not read the following descriptions if you are either (a) not feeling strong-stomached, or (b) eating – especially if it's a ham sandwich.)
  • Jokubas, Jurgis, and his family stop at a gathering place for visitors and wait for a guide who will take them on a tour of Brown's meatpacking plant.
  • They are led to a viewing room where they can see hogs being processed.
  • What the visitors see is this: a hog comes down a metal chute.
  • Workers at the bottom of the chute chain one of the hog's legs to a ring attached to a rotating wheel in the ceiling.
  • As the wheel rotates, the hog is yanked off of its feet. Suspended from one leg as the wheel slowly moves, the hog begins to shriek and squeal.
  • The visitors are all upset by the sounds of these animals crying out, but the workers are so used to it that they continue their work.
  • As the hogs come around, hanging from one leg and shrieking, the workmen quickly slit their throats.
  • The hogs slowly die.
  • As the wheel continues to rotate, these hog carcasses are dropped into vats of boiling water.
  • The hog carcass is pulled out of the vat of water and dropped by machines into a second floor of the slaughterhouse.
  • At this second floor, machines scrape each hog carcass clean of its skin and bristles (mostly).
  • The hog carcass is placed on an assembly line where two rows of men sit waiting to do their own particular tasks: one guy scrapes the outside of a leg, one the inside. One guy cuts halfway through the hog's neck, and a second guy cuts its head off entirely. The list goes on.
  • There is a hole in the floor to collect the throw-away parts of the pig – the guts and the head and so on.
  • The carcass then reaches the end of the line, where it is placed in a freezer for twenty-four hours.
  • There is also a government inspector on site, but he's the only guy in the factory who doesn't seem too bothered about working hard and fast.
  • He's supposed to check the pig glands to make sure that they don't have tuberculosis (a terrible lung disease that can also taint meat). But, if you talk to him, he's happy to look away from his work, even though a dozen carcasses will go by unchecked.
  • Jurgis is amazed at this spectacle. He has slaughtered pigs before in Lithuania, but he's never seen an assembly line where many men will do different things to one pig corpse.
  • Jurgis is honestly impressed. He's irritated at Jokubas for his hints that even spoiled meat gets sent out of these factories for people to eat.
  • The tour continues down to the next floor, where the guts of the pig are scraped clean for sausage. The smell is absolutely awful.
  • Next up is a room where the scraps are "tanked": boiled and rendered so that all the extra fat can be skimmed off for lard and soap.
  • Elsewhere, there are guys who are taking apart the chilled pig carcasses:
  • "Splitters," guys who make the most money in the whole factory. These fellows do nothing all day except chop hog bodies down the middle.
  • "Cleaver men," who quarter these hog bodies and send the different parts of the pig (shoulder, hindquarters, etc.) down different chutes for different processing (pork chops, hams, etc.).
  • Different rooms contain workers making salt pork and bacon.
  • At the doors of these rooms are delivery men waiting with trucks to bring all of these different animal products to the freight train stations for delivery across the country.
  • At last, they are at the ground floor of the hog slaughterhouse.
  • So Jurgis and his family (gosh, these guys are tireless) head across to the cattle slaughterhouses, run by the Durham company.
  • Cattle slaughtering happens all on one floor, and it's like a circus watching all of these people with their perfectly timed, interlocking jobs.
  • The Durham company runs numerous factories on this spot: it's not just a slaughterhouse; they also make their own cans to store the lard they sell, and they have their own generators.
  • Not only that, but these slaughtered cattle aren't just turned into meat: they become leather, glue, fertilizer, soap, and lard.
  • Jokubas explains to his friends that these Chicago stockyards support the largest number of workers ever collected in one place for a single industry: 250,000 people directly depend on these plants for their livelihood. Its products feed 30 million.
  • Jurgis is enchanted. He feels honored to have become a part of this enormous enterprise.

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